In 1902, Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister, founded Goodwill in Boston. When he faced a group who asked him for help getting food and clothes, Helms took a burlap bag and went to Boston’s wealthy citizens. Instead of asking for money, he asked for whatever clothing they could spare. The Goodwill store was born when Helms hired people in need – many of whom were considered unemployable – to repair damaged items and sell the donated goods.

“A hand up, not a hand out” was his motto. Helms opened Goodwill’s doors to anyone with a “willingness to work” and became the pioneer of an organization that gave people hope, dignity and independence by providing them with the means to earn a paycheck and support their families.

His social innovation set in motion a worldwide movement – Goodwill Industries – that has touched millions over the course of the past century.


In Tacoma, Rev. H.W. Michener – another young Methodist minister, one who had known Goodwill founder Rev. Helms – talked constantly about a Goodwill Industries for Tacoma. Eventually, in 1921, the ladies of Michener’s church handed him some leftover materials from a rummage sale and suggested he get started.

It was on April 19, 1922 Goodwill Industries filed formal articles of incorporation to operate as a nonprofit organization in Tacoma. The agency located in the old Central Methodist Church.

During the 1930s, Goodwill Industries became known as the most outstanding philanthropic movement of its time. Goodwill grew so quickly that on five different occasions it was required to seek larger quarters.


  • In 1932, its first dedicated structure was built at 356 Tacoma Ave. S.
  • On Aug. 28, 1952, Goodwill Industries established its first branch operations, setting up a small retail store in Yakima.
  • In 1958, the concept of specialized rehabilitation for the disabled and disadvantaged came about, and the foundation was laid for the program of rehabilitation services that this agency delivers today.
  • Goodwill branched out again, setting up a small workshop and retail outlet June 1, 1962 in Longview.
  • Goodwill Industries continued to grow. A new building was constructed for Goodwill, and in 1965, the industrial operations and administration offices moved to 714 S. 27th St.
  • It was in 1973 that Goodwill Industries received its first full three-year accreditation from CARF, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. It maintains CARF certification through this day.
  • In 2003, Goodwill began selling items online, through Shopgoodwill.com, E-Bay and Amazon.
  • In September 2009, Goodwill held a public dedication for its new Milgard Work Opportunity Center. The four-story, 63,000-square-foot facility is a LEED Gold building with five times the classroom space of the previous facility, a Distance Learning Theater and the REACH Center, a partnership of educational institutions and nonprofit agencies focused on helping young adults aged 16-24.
  • Goodwill opened its first boutique store, blue, in Tacoma’s Proctor District in 2012.
  • Through workforce development centers in Tacoma, Longview and Yakima, Goodwill offers over 30 different job training and educational programs to people with barriers to employment
  • In 2014, Tacoma Goodwill became Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region to reflect the 15 county area we serve in Western and Central Washington.
  • Goodwill opened a new outlet store and distribution center in Olympia in early 2015.
  • In November of 2015, a new Goodwill store opened in Union Gap. This is the first store to feature a brand new modern design to improve the customer shopping experience. New features include easy to read signage, faster checkout, central, spacious fitting rooms and an airy lit atmosphere. Grand re-openings of redesigned stores at 38th Street in Tacoma, Federal Way, Auburn, Centralia and Olympia followed in 2016.
  • In June of 2016, Goodwill opened its first “small box format” store in Graham. Incorporating all the modern elements of our redesigned stores, this format brings Goodwill’s hard to find treasures and great value to smaller communities in our territory.
  • In 2016, Goodwill placed a record 3,200 people in jobs throughout the community.